Before the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, delivered his statement there was as usual Prime Minister Question Time with Boris Johnson delivering his, as usual, non-answers. Keir Starmer asked him to apologise to care workers for blaming them for failing to carry out the correct procedures. Needless to say he didn’t apologise, rubbing instead salt into wounds with his contention that it wasn’t known that someone asymptomatic could spread the virus.
Onto the main business of the day: the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak’s summer statement.
Instead of a statement Anneliese Dodd Labour’s Shadow Chancellor in her response declared that we should have had a budget for jobs.
Day in day out we have heard of a pandemic of job losses – mass unemployment lies in wait. Instead of a budget we have a slogan. Jobs. Jobs, Jobs. I can’t help but remember how when WHO appealed in the fight against Covid-19 to: Test. Test. Test, the government ignored their appeal.
Sunak delivered his statement against this backdrop of failure in handling Covid-19 along with years of austerity and cuts.
When the lockdown on hospitality and tourism was lifted, despite pictures of packed Bournemouth beaches and crowds in Soho, confidence hasn’t returned. Sunak is trying to counter this with a cut in VAT from 20 per cent to 5 per cent hoping that this will shore up the economy until early 2021.
With a flourish Sunak unveiled an ‘eye catching’ initiative to get us into restaurants, a voucher for ten pounds – ‘eat out to help out’. A few weeks back we couldn’t go into restaurants now we are being ‘bribed’ with a voucher. Spending the money on public health mitigating people’s fears, having a tracking and tracing system that worked, extending the furlough scheme would be more likely to get people eating out. There are seven million key workers on less than £10 an hour – giving them a pay rise would make more sense.
Without additional money to access child care – one in four nurseries, preschools and childminders may well have to close, so where does that leave the statement’s purpose of jobs, jobs, jobs?
Rishi Sunak said, ‘I will never accept unemployment as an avoidable outcome’. How come then there are aviation workers still waiting for the financial support package promised over three months ago?
Guardian journalist Aditya Chakrabortty tweeted that Rishi Sunak is clearly a nice man but he is giving Britain a cocktail umbrella to take into a hurricane.
Today we have the Chancellor’s statement in reality Covid-19 and a second wave this winter is hanging over us like the Sword of Damocles.
Massive fortunes are being made. The Financial Times listed the top 100 companies that have increased their market capitalisation. (Figures in dollars -June 21 edition). No prizes for guessing number one Amazon – $401.1bn. Microsoft $269.9bn next and Apple $219.1bn. As expected technology giants letting those of us who can work from home do so have seen their wealth sky rocket as have retailers delivering ‘lockdown necessities’.
Zoom Video, which I’d never heard of before lockdown, is in at number 15 with $47.9 bn and TeladocHealth which offers online consultation with doctors is in at 100 with $8.2bn. According to the FT it posted first-quarter revenues up 41 per cent as people avoided hospitals and doctor’s surgeries.
Divisions and inequality have been brought into stark relief by this pandemic. This lockdown has demonstrated, beyond doubt, the massive digital divides that exists. In the borough of Camden in the heart of London 66 per cent of children in Somers Town next to Euston station have no access to the internet. In Kentish Town just up the road, there are schools where 44 per cent also do not have access. These figures will be replicated around the country. This divide today is tomorrow’s poverty. How we handle this will define us as a country.
By Joy Johnson, Unite political department